COPPELL, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a scene that could rival an image of Santa’s elves hustling to get Christmas presents ready at the North Pole.
“There’s nothing that brings me more joy than serving in this capacity,” says Debbie Quarles, a volunteer who drove to Coppell from the Waco area to help fill shoeboxes with holiday gifts for impoverished children. “This is one of the most joyful places on earth!”
Volunteers like Quarles sing, chat and pray as they pack up donated shoeboxes. The Samaritan’s Purse project dubbed, “Operation Christmas Child” has delivered more than 168 million shoebox gifts since 1993 to impoverished children all around the world.
“Some little girl is going to love this doll,” gushes Quarles as she closes the box, knowing that love and hope have also been tucked in to every nook and cranny.
“Some of the children, this is their first gift ever, to receive,” she explains.
So difficult for many to imagine, but not for Izabella McMillon.
“One Christmas, we got in a brown bag… two fresh oranges, one for my brother and one for me,” recalls McMillon. “We were so excited. We thought we hit the jackpot!”
McMillon grew up in Communist Romania where she says food was scarce and life was hard.
“My most vivid memories from my childhood are watching my parents around our kitchen table, strategizing over what we are going to eat the next day. Christmas was not something that we expected gifts at.”
Then a Samaritan’s Purse shoebox gift arrived from the other side of the world.
“I just remember the color. So much color,” recalls McMillon. “School supplies, hygiene items. Everything smelled good and everything was new and just for me. We felt seen for the first time and God came alive for me on that day.”
Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse, says the volunteers are asked to pray for the children who will ultimately received the colorful package filled toys, school supplies and hygiene items.
“We know He hears the prayer of one righteous person, can you imagine 11 million people praying? What God might do for the children of this world?”
Children who might grow up one day to pay the love forward as well.
“It mattered,” insists McMillon. “It changed my life forever. And because of the kindness of a stranger, now I am on this end and am able to give back.”
“There’s hope, love and joy in these boxes,” says Quarles.